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Cineplex’s Great Digital Film Festival

In cities known for having extraordinarily strong reparatory theatre content like Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver, one might not expect Cineplex as a name to necessarily turn to for the chance to see some old favourites projected up on the big screen in the way they were meant to be seen. But thanks to dwindling supplies of 35mm prints and the switch to digital projection, Cineplex as swooped in and begun to fill a bit of a niche that seems to be disappearing.

From Friday February 1st though the 7th in 19 theatres across Canada, Cineplex will be hosting the fourth annual Great Digital Film Festival, a celebration of movies both new and old as part of their Front Row Centre Events. The goal of the series is to bring back the communal element to going to the movies even though the old single screen theatre these films sometimes showed in seems to be going the way of the dinosaur.

This year’s line-up includes an interesting mix of beloved blockbusters, foreign favourites, cult films, and even a debut. Lovers of all things big and loud will get a kick out of the returns of Jaws, The Matrix, and The Fifth Element, in addition to a marathon of the entire Indiana Jones series. Fans of 80s horror and genre can flock to the likes of An American Werewolf in London and Gremlins. The legendary Stanley Kubrick gets a pair of films into the festival with the seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange. Two of Asia’s biggest imports of the past 20 years, Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale and Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy make their way to the big screen. There are even four movies for the tougher gangster movie crowd with Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Casino. This year’s high profile debut belongs to Toronto After Dark Film Festival favourite Cockneys Vs. Zombies. And the possible best part might be the low price tag of just $6 per ticket, with discounts and extra Scene loyalty points for those seeing multiple movies.

Now while some people might say that all of the films listed above have played in the city of Toronto somewhat recently (and in many cases on 35mm, the film purists still debatably preferred medium of choice) and how Cineplex itself has been playing a great deal of older fare at their Toronto Yonge and Dundas theare, but the festival still marks an excellent chance for people in other parts of the country or for those with limited funds to see some of these classics at what now equates to old school pricing.


As someone who loves the old school reparatory cinema environment (and who wouldn’t really have a job as a writer without it in a lot of ways), even I have to admit I was sceptical at first, but over the past few months Cineplex as a company has been showing a real desire to book older fare and give it a new home. In many ways, just having these films in a an theatre environment is all that matters.

We talked to Cineplex’s Director of Communications Michael Langdon about the company’s drive to bring older movies to the megaplex crowd, how the festival comes together, and potential plans to make screening classics to crowds outside of Toronto a more permanent thing.

Dork Shelf: Things are a bit different with this festival from years in the past because you have been branching out a bit more every year since you started and working in a lot more classic fare into your booking, and at the Yonge and Dundas location you essentially have a whole screen devoted to that. Is that something you see yourselves doing a lot more with in the future?

Michael Langdon: Well, we play classic movies as part of our alternative programming line-up as part of our Classic Film Series. We bring back all of these great Hollywood favourites from the past and we found that our guests really enjoyed them, so it definitely is a win-win situation and it makes a lot of sense to keep going forward with it.


DS: What’s the process like for booking the actual proper festival?

ML: Really what I think it comes down to is that we have here at Cineplex both on our film team and our alternative programming team that are in charge of selecting those movies, together they have a great relationship with the studios and they have their finger on the pulse of what Canadians want to see, so those are the guys who decide what we bring to the screen, both from a Great Digital Film Festival standpoint and from the Classic Film Series.

DS: And this year you guys also have the premiere of a film that hadn’t played many theatres before. Is that something you guys think you could see yourself doing more and more throughout the year?

ML: Yeah, absolutely. With Cockneys Vs. Zombies it was a film that hadn’t been widely distributed in Canada and we thought it was a great opportunity that would really fit with the theme of this year’s festival and that our guests would love it. And everybody loves zombie movies, (laughs) so we decided to bring it to the big screen in Canada and play it on 19 screens across the country, and we’re really excited about it.


DS: Have you guys considered testing out doing what you do at the Yonge and Dundas location in Toronto at other locations across Canada where you would make these classic films a more regular fixture of the programming?

ML: I think we look at it on a case by case basis, and we look at the market and try to understand if we think it’s something that will appeal to the guests, and then it becomes something we would look into doing, and really the way we programme all our theatres – and this isn’t exclusive to the Classic Film Series or the Digital Film Festival – is that we try to look at each theatre individually and make decisions that are right for our guests in those markets.

DS: What do you see as plans for the future regarding the festival and the Classic Film Series?

ML: With regards to the long term picture for the festival, it’s been successful so far and we believe that it will continue to be successful. The really key reasons for that are that, number one, there’s no real way to replicate the experience of seeing a movie – especially one of your favourite movies – on the big screen. There’s just no way to replicate that at all, and number two, many of the films we are bringing back are being shown for the first time in wider distribution in digital format. So in terms of the future of the festival, I think we expect it to continue to do well and we expect it to continue, and we’re really encouraging our guests to get out there and see some of these great films!


For a full line up of films, showtimes, locations, and ticketing information, head on over to the Cineplex website.